Posts Tagged ‘Haro Strait’

Humback off of Hein Bank!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

We left our Friday Harbor location today and headed south out the San Juan Channel, though Cattle Pass, and into the Haro Strait where we came across a Humpback Whale! This was the same Humpback that we saw last night right off the south end of San Juan Island. When we reached Hein Bank, the whale was heading toward Vancouver, BC. At first it was diving deep and staying down for about eight minutes at a time. Then, the whale seemed to have a change of pace and started swimming slowly toward the surface coming up for air many times in a five minute period. We call this “resting” behavior! We also got to see the large whale (about the size of our boat) roll through the water and tail slap! It was very fun to watch…!

We followed the Humpback to Middle Bank in the Canadian waters, at which point we had to turn around and head home. On our way home we saw lot’s of Harbor Porpoise, some Harbor Seals, and even a Bald Eagle and its nest! Even though the trip started off a little rainy and cold, it ended up being a great day on the water yet again!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

A Sunset of Whales

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Sunset trips happen to be Captain Mike and I’s favorite trips to go out on with our guests. Tonight was great! We left Friday Harbor and went to the south end of San Juan Island, through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait. The whales were right off of Eagle Point and were spread out feeding. Mega (L-41) was there, as well as Ocean Sun (L-25) who happens to be the oldest female in L-Pod. These guys seemed to be on a course of their own hunting for the Chinook Salmon they prefer to eat. They were surfacing many times without a consistent path of travel. That however, worked in our favor because we were able to get some great views of the whales!

We also saw three Minke Whales which happen to be one of the smallest baleen whales! The Minkes came awfully close to our boat and were feeding on the large quantity of Krill and Sand Lance in the area. Minkes are pretty small whales at only 25-30 feet long but definitely look very cool up close!

As we headed back to Friday Harbor, the sun was beginning to set. We left the towering dorsal fins in the background to hunt and continue on without us. It was a beautiful scene…very peaceful and calm. I love our evening trips!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

A Plethora of Whales!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

It was a beautiful day to be on the water! We left Friday Harbor and headed south through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait where we hoped to encounter some whales. On our way out, we came across numerous Harbor Seals that were utilizing the the upwellings created by the tidal current. These upwellings are a great place for the Harbor Seals to forage and we love seeing their little heads bobbing up and down in the water!

When we got on scene with the whales Keven and I quickly identified the whales as the “L-12″ group. My favorite, Mega (L-41), Mystery (L-85) and even Ocean Sun (L-25) who was estimated to be born in 1928! Ocean Sun is the oldest female in L pod; and, as we know, male killer whales will stay with their mother and family group their entire life- they’re big Mamma’s Boys!

Not only did we see our Resident L Pod today, but we also saw a Humpback Whale and Minke Whale foraging! It was great to see such a diversity of whales today, we were all lucky to be on such an amazing tour! All in all, it was a great day!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Transients and L-Pod together?!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Today Captain Mike, naturalist Caitlin and myself headed out of the San Juan Channel, through Cattle Pass and to the south end of the Haro Strait. We had heard rumors about the whale activity on the south end of the island and hoped to encounter L-Pod and even some transient killer whales! This trip we had a particularly great, enthusiastic group of guests on board and our hopes were high when we saw our first spout from our resident L-Pod.

This is the second day that L-Pod has been in the Salish Sea and we’re very happy to welcome them back after being away for about a week. We encountered L-25, Ocean Sun and four others. They were in a particularly good mood today, breaching, logging, and tail slapping! Of course, researchers haven’t really figured out why these whales “breach”, “log” or “tail slap” but I’d like to think that when we witnessed the behavior, it was because they were having fun!

We also encountered something very rare today- we saw transient killer whales in the same general location! These two groups of whales are rarely seen in such close proximity to one another, and often times can be quite adversarial. These two types of orca are very different as they differ in their social structures, habitat preference, diet, morphology, pigmentation, and even genetically! Our resident orcas consume mostly Chinook salmon and do so at 400 pounds a day! Our transient orcas prey predominantly on marine mammals such as harbor seals, harbor porpoise, and Dall’s porpoise. It was certainly a treat to see these two very different forms of Killer whales in the same day! Our guests definitely learned more about identifying certain whales today, since they could clearly see the difference in their dorsal fins and saddle patches! What a phenomenal day! “Work” seems to get better and better!

Heather, Naturalist, Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Transients on the South End

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

We headed South today from our Friday Harbor location and into the San Juan Channel where we promptly had to do a “man overboard” drill to retrieve one of our customers hats! The hat flew off and into the water, at which point Captain Mike swiftly turned the boat around and Caitlin and I retrieved the water-logged hat! Sometimes, we start out with a little excitement right in the very beginning! We’ll always go out of our way to make sure we still have smiling faces aboard!

After the excitement with the hat, we headed out through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait in hopes of finding our Transient friends. Transient killer whales are our mammal hunting killer whales as opposed to our Resident Orcas which only eat Salmon.

We found our Transient killer whales traveling together in a group of 6 swimming at about 10 knots! The whales we encountered were the same T-65 group that we have been seeing over the past week. These guy’s were heading south and doing so pretty fast; they seemed to have an agenda of their own! We got some great views of their grey saddle patch and sharp, pointed dorsal fins while they were porpoising out of the water.

After watching the whales for quite some time, we headed back for Friday Harbor. On our way back we were able to see a Bald Eagle pair and their nest as well ass some Harbor Seals. The harbor seals were hauled out on the rocks, which is probably the safest place for them while our Transients are in the water! Another great day of whale watching!

Heather, Naturalist, Seal Lion
San Juan Safaris

J-Pod and L-12′s once again!!!

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

We left our Friday Harbor location today, hoping for a great day with the whales in the Salish Sea. We headed south towards Cattle Pass where we saw dozens of harbor seals having a great time foraging. From there, we headed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait off the south end of San Juan Island where we encountered the L-12′s, a smaller sub-group of the larger L-Pod (our resident killer whales). It didn’t take long before we recognized L-41 otherwise known as Mega who was born in 1977. Close by to mega was L-25, Ocean Sun, who is estimated to be born in 1928!

Research on our Southern Resident Killer Whales began in 1973, all whales born after this time will have a specific birthday that is known. Any whales born before 1973 will have an estimated birth year such. For more information on the individual whales check out the Center For Whale Research at

Another beautiful day on the water while watching some spectacular whale behavior.

Heather, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Boys Will Be Boys!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

The Southern Residents are still in the area, and we found them today around 3:00PM heading south in Haro Strait near Kelp Reef (48°33.11N 123°13.47W). The first whales we encountered were Blackberry (J27) and Mike (J26) who had made their way into the K18s possibly trying to score a date, or at least some companions to travel with. Mike (J26) was however keeping his distance behind the group while Blackberry (J27) was right in the middle, what seemed like a nice wingman move to me!

In total we saw about 15 or so Killer Whales, all Southern Residents, including this group, others we traveled with, and ones that were further off in the distance. Another amazing day on the water!

Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris

Southern Residents Come in With the Fog!

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Supposedly it’s September, but the last two mornings here have been completely blanketed by fog. All the more adventure we say!

And today it was as we headed directly for the thick of it with rumor of Black and Whites on the other side.  Once we reached Cattle Pass the eeriness set in and we were confronted with limited visibility and an immediate chill. The naturalist had everyone’s eyes peeled for creatures that may be lurking amongst the midst, an easy distraction technique that also seconds as help for navigation through the area.

As we made our way deeper into the strait the fog began to lift and wouldn’t ya know it, our friends were there to greet us. Members of J and K pod were spread out, feeding approximately a mile west of Hein Bank (Haro Strait). Cappuccino (K21), Mike(J26), and Blackberry (J27) were all present amongst 20 or so others. Today couldn’t have been better for whale watching as we were surrounded by whales on all sides. Each time we tried to leave, more whales would appear. Blackberry (J27) was the last to greet us and he was brilliant. He rolled over and swam on his side parallel to the boat, raising his pectoral fin, and then moving onto his back, belly up, and throwing his tail up entirely out of the water 5 times in a row!

As we left him and the others to enjoy their home, the fog had lifted for a sunny return to Friday Harbor. Below are some pictures of our wonderful day!

Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris

Naturalist Tara's face before entering the fog!

Southern Resident with Fog Blanket and San Juan Island in the background

Where we traveled...










Male Orca


Steller Sea Lion posing at Whale Rocks


Erica, wonderful guest enjoying her tour!

Fun in the Sun; the Wildlife Rendition!

Friday, September 14th, 2012

What a fabulous day on the water! We started the trip off with an abundance of wildlife as we made our way through San Juan Channel. We saw dozens upon dozens of Harbor Seals hauled out, sun bathing on any rocky islet available and bobbing through the riptides in search of food. We also saw three Steller Sea Lions swimming amongst the riptides, what seemed to be another marine mammal thanksgiving!

Once we reached Haro Strait we encountered our first Minke Whale just south of Salmon Bank about a mile offshore of San Juan Island (48°25.00N 122°56.00W). We watched it surface a few times and then all of a sudden another Minke popped up right across our bow. Soon after, a third surfaced on our starboard side. Once we were surrounded, we cut off our engine and simply watched. Surprisingly the Minkes weren’t being very mysterious, instead they were being extremely active! They came up multiple times by our boat, allowing us to hear their blows and see the full extent of their 30-35 ft long bodies and they were lunging like crazy showing us their full rostrum and stealing away the food from any birds in sight.

The Minkes were surprising, the birds went flying, and the people were smiling!

On our way back in we visited the Bald Eagles nest and the Steller Sea Lions hauled out on Whale Rocks. They too were enjoying the sun, about 15+ of them out basking away, and about 5 or so playing around in the water.

Another great day full of wildlife and whales!

Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris

Too Many Whales to Count, Too Awestruck to Care!

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Around 10:40 AM this morning we received a Southern Resident Killer Whale report: members of J, K, and L pod headed north in Haro Strait. We were extremely excited yet a bit uneasy knowing they were headed for Active Pass (Canada). Luckily enough by the time we boarded and headed out for the strait the whales had turned around. It couldn’t have been more perfect timing.

As we made our way into the gut of the strait, reaching a center point between Stewart, Moresby, Sidney, and Henry Island (48°38.51N 123°14.37W), we began to see the leaders of the pods headed in our direction; all we had to do was sit and wait. As the whales began to pass our boat we realized they were coming in all directions so our best option was to cut the engine and simply watch. No words can describe this experience, but I’ll try my best to summarize.

It was one of those moments in time where everything became frozen. The boat and the people were frozen. The sky was frozen. Other boats on the water were frozen. The islands off in the distance were frozen. The only thing moving around us were the whales. It grew completely silent. The only thing you could hear was the sound of your own heart pounding through your chest and the exuding exhalations of the whales as they broke the water’s surface. At this point in time, the only thing that seemed real, were the whales.

We were lucky enough today, to watch members of all three pods swim past our boat. They moved across our bow, across our stern, and even alongside us. They were also chattin’ up a storm on the hydrophone, some of the best vocalizations to date! It seemed as though several of them had swam past us just to say hi and at one point a female and calf stopped right alongside our boat and simply sat there logging at the surface.

Man, what day!

Naturalist Tara and Captain Mike! San Juan Safaris